A woman received £1million in damages after claiming she was raped by her recruiting firm CEO while ‘drunk’ and ‘unsteady on her feet’

A woman received £1million in damages after claiming she was raped by her recruiting firm CEO while ‘drunk’ and ‘unsteady on her feet’

A woman has been awarded £1 million in damages after claiming that her recruiting firm’s CEO raped her in her hotel room when she was ‘drunk’ and ‘unsteady on her feet’ during a six-month appraisal meeting.

On the day of the incident, the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, went out for drinks with the CEO and coworkers to discuss her performance, according to an employment tribunal conducted remotely in south London.

The company’s culture reportedly featured ‘alcohol and sexualized conversations’ that were ‘encouraged’ by the CEO, and drunken affairs occurred at workplace parties.

The woman, referred to as Ms. M, was escorted to her hotel room by her “robust and temperamental” employer, Mr. T, who departed some time later.

Later that month, Ms. M, who was on probation, called in ill and subsequently quit.

The CEO vehemently disputed the charges, claiming that there had been no sexual contact between the two and that he had been in her room for less than 10 minutes.

The panel determined ‘on the balance of probabilities’ that she had been attacked and awarded £995,127.67 in damages.

In addition to monetary damages resulting from her job loss, the tribunal awarded her £75,000 for physical injury and £17,000 for emotional distress.

Two months later, she reported to police the alleged attack, which she could only “partially remember.”

However, after two investigations that the tribunal found “poor” and lacking in “good independent evidence,” no criminal charges were filed.

The panel said that police investigations hindered its ability to make a conclusion as a result of large gaps between learning the facts and questioning witnesses, doing little to locate witnesses, and failing to test evidence for DNA.

The tribunal heard that the firm had a “work hard, play hard” culture that often included drinking and sexually explicit chats, which the CEO “tolerated” and “positively encouraged.”

The panel heard that employees “regularly” drank alcohol at the corporate headquarters, with work parties often degenerating into drunken events.

The staff even saw a pair engaging in sexual activity at a work-related event at the headquarters, the tribunal was informed.

The CEO instituted ‘drinks sessions’ after work, giving staff booze as birthday gifts and lap dances at Christmas.

Alcoholic celebrations reportedly happened both in and outside of the workplace.

During one farewell party, one employee tried to consume 20 shots in one hour, and an award ceremony of “shots and slut drops” was organised, according to the panel.

The tribunal found that “there were very few boundaries in place” in the workplace, with the CEO reportedly having an affair with an employee over 30 years his junior.

The panel characterised him as a ‘capricious’ and ‘robust’ boss who lavished staff with expensive designer presents for outstanding work but did not “pat workers on the back for doing the minimum level.”

The CEO disputed during the tribunal that the assault occurred, claiming that he just handed off her luggage, and claimed that the workplace had a debaucherous atmosphere.

A year before, the woman had assumed a senior position at the firm and was in her six-month probationary term.

The panel heard that it had been determined that she was underperforming.

She told the tribunal that she felt nervous at work and unclear if her supervisor “liked her or wanted to keep her” due to the customary “hire and fire culture” in the recruiting industry.

The tribunal heard contradictory testimony from her and her supervisor about what transpired and analysed the nighttime timeframes offered by both parties.

It determined that there had been “ample possible time for the alleged attack to take place” in the room.

The panel also observed that the CEO failed to disclose any emails he may have sent at the “crucial time” when he claimed to be driving home.

The panel, led by employment judge Emma Kate Webster, reached the conclusion that (the CEO’s) view about the organization’s culture was completely impossible.

‘Despite all the evidence to the contrary, he has stated that it was not an organisation where much drinking took place or where sexual relations between staff were anything more than rumour.

‘This is clearly not the case and to take such a stance has undermined our ability to trust him in relation to other matters.

‘We find that the backdrop of a culture and organisation almost without any appropriate boundaries means that him overstepping those boundaries was more likely, particularly in light of him denying that such a culture existed at all.

‘This would have been harder to believe if the culture had been one of formality and strict guidelines as opposed to one where lap dances were paid for at Christmas parties, affairs between staff were common and alcohol regularly consumed to excess in the office.’

Although it could not reach a consensus, the majority of the panel concluded the alleged sexual assault had happened – but said their deliberations had been hampered by two ‘poor’ police investigations.

It said: ‘The woman has been consistent in stating that something happened that night. We suspect that she was not sure what to call that ‘something’ for some time thereafter.

‘She did not necessarily immediately know that it was rape because she only partially remembered it.

‘She was embarrassed by what had happened and was perhaps unaware as to whether she initially consented or not – though of course we heard no evidence on this point and we are fully aware of the fact she was so drunk she was unlikely to be able to consent.

‘We are not making findings of fact on this point, merely making observations and they are largely irrelevant in light of the respondent’s blanket denial that anything happened at all.

‘We stress that we have made our decision and all our findings of fact on the balance of probabilities and based on the evidence which we were provided with; little of which was actually determinative of whether the alleged attack took place or not.

‘We were only able to reach a majority decision despite three days of very careful deliberation. Our ability to reach a decision was severely hampered by the lack of any good independent evidence.

‘This is particularly troubling given there have been two police investigations into the matter.

‘The police investigation and report into this matter was poor. The timeline of when the police spoke to people appears to show huge gaps between the police becoming aware of facts and interviewing the relevant witnesses.

‘They seem to have done very little to track witnesses down. They did not ask for or test the only piece of clothing that could have had DNA evidence on it for over a year.

‘We conclude, on balance of probabilities, that [the CEO] had sex with the woman when she did not consent or did not have the capacity to consent.’

The tribunal upheld by majority the claim for sexual harassment and, because she resigned as a result of the assault which was ‘because of her sex’, her sex discrimination claim also succeeded.

»A woman received £1million in damages after claiming she was raped by her recruiting firm CEO while ‘drunk’ and ‘unsteady on her feet’«

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